A CHEMIST from the University of Reading has written to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry team following a 'violent reaction' during testing.

Professor Laurence Harwood was tasked with checking aluminium cladding panels conducted a number of experiments on the reactive elements.

His studies revealed an abnormal reaction when he directed a fine spray of water onto the aluminium sheets that had been heated to temperatures above 300 degrees.

Alok Sharma, MP for Reading West, was elected Housing Minister at matter of hours after the tragedy, which saw at least 80 people killed in the inferno.

Professor Harwood, director of the Chemical Analysis Facility, believes the 'runaway fire' was accelerated by the constant reaction of water on the cladding.

He said: “While I knew something about the reactivity of aluminium, I was genuinely taken aback the first time I tested my proposal in the laboratory.

“I was not expecting such an intense reaction when I sprayed water onto a panel that I had heated with a blow torch.

“The presence of water absorbed by the foam, over a lengthy period of exposure to the elements, could play a significant role in accelerating a cladding fire by causing hot aluminium to react violently, generating heat and hydrogen.

“The latter would then burn violently to produce more heat and steam, which would then allow polyethylene inner layers to be exposed over a large surface area, in turn burning to produce more heat and more steam, setting up a feedback loop and causing a runaway fire.

“This may explain why cladding removed from a number of buildings may have failed fire retardancy testing following the Grenfell Tower fire, despite the individual components having been found to be compliant with requisite fire regulations by the manufacturers.”

Since the Grenfell fire, a number of councils have had to conduct reviews into the materials used on high rise accommodation and the leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council resigned.

Hundreds were left homeless as a result of the fire and the 24-storey block was subjected to rigorous testing in the aftermath.